Charles Mordaunt, earl of Peterborough and Monmouth
From Classic Encyclopedia 1911
CHARLES MOR- PETERBOROUGH AND MONMOUTH' '[[Daunt, Earl Of]] (c. 1658-1735), English soldier and statesman, was born about 1658. His father, John Mordaunt, was created Viscount Mordaunt of Avalon and Baron Mordaunt of Reigate, Surrey, in 1659; 1 his mother was Elizabeth, the daughter and sole heiress of Thomas Carey, the second son of Robert Carey, 1st earl of Monmouth. 2 He matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford, on the 11th of April 1674. When about sixteen years of age he joined Sir John Narborough's fleet in the Mediterranean, and won his first distinction in arms in the destruction of the dey's fleet under the very guns ofTripoli. His father died on the 5th of June 1675, and Charles Mordaunt succeeded to the peerage as Viscount Mordaunt. On his return from the second expedition to Tangier he plunged into active political life as a zealous Whig and an unswerving opponent of the duke of York. But his continued hostility to James II. forced him to repair to Holland in 1686, when he proposed to William of Orange to invade England. The disposition of the cold and cautious William had little in common with the fierce and turbulent Mordaunt. His plan was rejected, though the prudent prince of Orange deemed it judicious to retain his services. When William sailed to Torbay his friend accompanied him, and when the Dutch prince was safely established on the throne of England honours without stint were showered upon Lord Mordaunt. He was sworn of the privy council on the 14th of February 1689, on the 8th of April of the same year appointed first lord of the treasury, and a day later advanced in the peerage by creation as earl of Monmouth.
In less than a year he was out of the treasury, but he still remained by the person of his monarch and was with him in his dangerous passage to Holland in January 1691. He was one of the eighteen peers who signed the protest against the rejection, on the 7th of December 1692, of the motion for the appointment of a committee to inquire into the conduct of the war, and although William had refused his consent to a bill for triennial parliaments in the previous session, Lord Monmouth did not shrink from reintroducing it in December 1693. This led to a disagreement with the court, though the final breach did not take place until January 1697, when Monmouth was accused of complicity in Sir John Fenwick's conspiracy and of the use of "undutiful words" towards the king. He was committed to the Tower, staying in confinement until the 30th of March 1697, and deprived of his employments. Some consolation for these troubles came to him on the 19th of June of the same year, when he succeeded to the earldom of Peterborough, by the death of his uncle Henry Mordaunt, 2nd earl.
The four years after his release from the Tower were mainly passed in retirement, but on the accession of Anne he plunged into political life again with avidity. His first act was to draw down on himself in February 1702 the censure of the House of Commons for the part which he took in the attempt to secure the return of his nominee for the borough of Malmesbury. Through the fear of the ministry that his restless spirit would drive him into opposition to its measures if he stayed at home, he was appointed early in 1705 to command an expedition of 1 A barony of Mordaunt by writ had existed in the family since 1529, and the viscount was the second son of the fifth of these barons, who in 1628 was created earl of Peterborough, the elder son Henry being second earl.
a Cr. 1626. This peerage became extinct in 1661 on the death of the 2nd earl.
English and Dutch troops in Spain. He was created the sole commander of the land forces in April 1705 and joint-commander with Sir Cloudesley Shovel of the fleet on the ist of May, after he had been reinstated a member of the privy council on the 29th of March. He arrived at Lisbon on the 10th of June 1705, sailed for Barcelona (Aug. 1705) on an expedition for the conquest of Catalonia, and began to besiege that town. For some weeks the operations were not prosecuted with vigour and Peterborough urged that the fleet should transport the troops to Italy, but the energetic counsels of the Archduke Charles at last prevailed and by the 14th of October the city fell into his hands. On the 24th of January 1706 he entered Valencia in triumph, but these movements had weakened the garrison at Barcelona, which was now besieged by a superior French force under Tesse. The garrison, commanded by the archduke, defended their positions with great bravery, but would have been obliged to surrender had not the fleet of Sir John Leake, answering the appeals of Charles but contrary to the original orders of Peterborough, come to their assistance on the 8th of May, whereupon the French raised the siege on the 11th of May. It is difficult to understand the action of Peterborough during this campaign, unless on the supposition that he was out of sympathy with the movement for placing an Austrian prince on the throne of Spain. When Charles determined upon uniting with Lord Galway's troops and marching to Madrid, the advice of Peterborough again hindered his progress. At first he urged an advance by Valencia as supplies had there been collected, then he withdrew this statement; afterwards he delayed for some weeks to join Galway, who was in need of succour, but ultimately reached the camp on the 6th of August. The leaders of the army differed in their views, and Lord Peterborough was recalled to England to explain his conduct (March 1707).
On his return to England in August he allied himself with the Tories, and received his reward in being contrasted, much to his advantage, with the Whig victor of Blenheim and Malplaquet. The differences between the three peers, Peterborough, Galway and Tyrawley, who had served in Spain, formed the subject of angry debates in the Lords, when the majority declared for Peterborough; after some fiery speeches the resolution that he had performed many great and eminent services was carried, and votes of thanks were passed to him without any division (January and February 1708). His new friends were not desirous of detaining him long on English soil, and they sent him on a mission to Vienna, where he characteristically engaged the ministry in pledges of which they disapproved. His resentment at this disagreement was softened by the command of a cavalry regiment, and by his appointment as a Knight of the Garter (Aug. 3 and 4, 1713). With the accession of George I. Lord Peterborough's influence was gone. Worn out with suffering, he died at Lisbon on the 25th of October 1 735. His remains were brought to England, and buried at Turvey in Bedfordshire on the 21st of November.
Lord Peterborough was short in stature and spare in habit of body. His activity knew no bounds. He was said to have seen more kings and postilions than any man in Europe, and the whole point of Swift's lines on "Mordanno" consisted in a description of the speed with which he hastened from capital to capital. He was eloquent in debate and intrepid in war, but his influence in the senate was ruined through his inconsistency, and his vigour in the field was wasted through his want of union with his colleagues. His first wife, Carey, daughter of Sir Alexander Fraser of Dores, Kincardineshire, died on the 13th of May 1709, and was buried at Turvey. Some years later (1722) he secretly married Anastasia Robinson (c. 16 951 755), a famous dramatic singer (from 1714) of great beauty and sweetness of disposition, daughter of Thomas Robinson (d. 1722), a portrait painter; but she was at first unrecognized as his wife, and lived apart from him (regarded merely as his mistress) with her two sisters at Parson's Green. She remained on the operatic stage, till 1724. It was only a few months before his death that (after a second marriage ceremony) she was introduced to society as the countess of Peterborough. He had a son John (1681-1710) who predeceased him, and was therefore succeeded in the title by his grandson Charles (1710-1779), whose son Charles Henry (1758-1814), 5th earl, died unmarried, the honours becoming extinct, except for the barony of Mordaunt which passed to a collateral branch and fell into abeyance in 1836.
BIBLIOGRAPHY. - The best accounts of the career of Peterborough are in the life by William Stebbing (1890), and the War of the Succession in Spain, by Colonel the Hon. Arthur Parnell (1905). The earlier lives are founded on the memoir of Captain George Carleton (1728), which was analysed by Colonel Parnell, and dismissed as a fictitious narrative inspired by Swift, in the Eng. Hist. Rev. (1891), vi. 97-151). (W. P. C.)